AT&T's Patented Anti-piracy System Tracks in Real-time

Rhett Pardon

WASHINGTON — AT&T has received a patent for new technology that will detect and block file-sharing software, as well as track which users are using it.

With the real-time technology, the telecom intends to evaluate usage patterns and assign users “scores” that places them into varying “risk classes.”

Once a user’s activity is categorized, the technology can respond in a number of ways, including blocking the transfer entirely and reporting copyright infringement to "interested parties" such as copyright owners, according to the patent.

U.S. Patent No. 8,590,054 is defined as "methods, devices and computer program products for regulating network activity using a subscriber scoring system."

In its patent abstract, AT&T said that efforts to date have been insufficient in protecting users and service providers from unwanted network activity and that copyright protection measures that have been deployed have failed to curtail increases in Internet piracy, particularly with the entertainment industry.

The adult entertainment industry, of course, has been hit hard by piracy through the past five years, with DVD sales seeing a freefall since 2007 by as much as 40 percent.

The patented tracking system can be deployed across a wide variety of Internet providers, which can then share a database of "prohibited" files.  

“The present invention thus can be seen to have many advantages: it is capable of identifying likely incidents of illicit content transmission, such as piracy of copyrighted material, confirming the presence of such content, and then taking action while preserving the privacy of those ISP customers who have no association with copyright infringement,” the patent filing says.

This isn’t the first anti-piracy monitoring system developed by the telecom; last year, AT&T received U.S. Patent No. 8,190,581 for “Real-time content detection in ISP transmissions,” which also can be used to report customers sharing copyrighted materials to interested parties.